I recently posted about having to face some hard truths about my husband and our relationship.
I had a post from a year ago, December 2018, pop up in Facebook’s feed today. In it, I said my posts about feminism, my posts condemning patriarchy, had nothing to do with my own relationship. I praised my husband and blamed my upbringing and patriarchal beliefs for the trouble in our relationship. I saw him as having been the innocent and largely unaware victim of circumstance.
I believed the inequality in our relationship was because of my belief I had to submit. I didn’t think of him as controlling, or passive-aggressive. I saw him as a decent human being.
I had not yet said that I needed us to implement better sleep hygiene and get rid of the hoarded clutter, or that eventually I’d have to remove myself from the environment in order for my mental health to improve.
In 2019, having realized that my mental health had to be a top priority, I put my foot down about the sleep and clutter. I knew he’d have trouble with the change, but I needed to be able to heal and be somewhat functional in my life going forward.
And things began to spiral out and become explosive in a way our relationship had never been. I continued to have the most charitable interpretations of his behavior and everything that happened, though. I regretted that he seemed inflexible, unable to change and that I was put in a position where I could save myself or save the marriage, but not both. But if I stayed in the marriage to save it, that would destroy me all over again, and without me, there would be no marriage, so the marriage was doomed either way.
The only sensible thing was to save myself since I literally couldn’t save my marriage. I was still hoping he and I could peacefully transition to a life apart, and maybe still be friends after the dust settled.
This year, from the time I delivered my ultimatums about sleep hygiene and hoarded clutter, until now, the following took place:
…okay so he’s hiding things from me even though I haven’t been hiding anything from him
…okay, so he’s mad at me because only having sex if I want to have sex is me “controlling” sex
…okay so he’s angry at my healthy, researched coping mechanisms meant to help stabilize the symptoms of mental illness, and is attempting to shame me out of them
…okay so he’s stuck in a feedback loop and wants me to keep reassuring him and soothing him over and over, and he won’t see how important it is that I sleep before we talk about his paranoia being triggered again
…okay so I’ve been 100% honest with him, to an embarrassing and even unsafe degree, and he still thinks I’m lying
…okay so he’s taken control of the finances and thinks I wanted his name off our account
…okay now he’s basically saying he doesn’t owe me anything, but I owed him 16 years of unpaid labor because we were married
…okay so he’s trying to kick me out of the apartment because he thinks I want to file for divorce early and if I want to file for divorce early, that must be proof I’m trying to set up my new life with H or something?!?
…okay so he insisted on coming to my family’s Thanksgiving and now he’s blaming me because he had a bad time and I didn’t stop him from coming
…okay now he’s trying to convince my mom he’s the wronged party
All of that, and I continued to try to put the most charitable interpretation on his actions.
And then I read my facebook posts from 2016. Read the summary of my upbringing and religious beliefs. Read where I posted that my husband ‘sensed something was wrong’ but didn’t know what, and didn’t know what questions to ask. Remembered that’s what he told me in 2016, but that he told my therapist a very different story in 2019 – a story in which he recognized he had the lion’s share of the power in the relationship, and instead of talking to me, talked to friends to make sure they thought I wouldn’t be doing anything I didn’t want to do. Spoke of other situations using language that clearly showed he understood all along that he had the power in the relationship and that he called the shots.
And that – that hurt. That was a betrayal. My charitable interpretations began to crumble.
I had shouldered the blame for what went wrong in the relationship, and he had been happy to heap that blame on me, too. I should have done a better job of standing up for myself. I should have said “I don’t want this” so he understood it was about my emotions instead of arguing for what he wanted like a lawyer in a court of law. (Yes I had emotions about his decisions, but my emotions and desires that countered his weren’t irrational, and weren’t devoid of reason or evidence.) When someone says ‘here are the reasons I think this is a bad idea’ it should be easy to see they don’t want you to do that thing.
He made sure I knew it was my fault we were getting divorced. I chose this. He loved me and he was willing to compromise. He was willing to stay married even knowing I’d never been in love with him, and never would be in love with him.
Going back even further, before ultimatums, before the word divorce made an appearance, he’d said he’d sensed I might outgrow him one day, feared it, but that he wanted me to get help, even if it meant losing me.
The words were at odds with the actions, and yet I applied those words to the actions and gave him charitable interpretations.
The truth was that he willingly and knowingly stayed in our relationship, with our unhealthy and toxic dynamic, because it meant he was able to be in control of our life, so he could try to craft a life he wanted, a life centered on his own personal comfort – comfort he achieved at my expense. He did nothing meaningful to promote my equality in the relationship, and when I finally started to prioritize my health in order to save myself from a future that involved a mental hospital or a grave (because I wanted to be there for my children and for him), he reacted with such ill grace that it convinced me there was no healthy way forward within the relationship.
That’s not loving, or friendly, or innocent.